SCBWI

Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Meet our 2019 SCBWI Europolitan Mentee Stephanie Radzik

Taking part in a mentor program is a wonderful opportunity to “up your game” by working intensively with a publishing professional. Today we’re going to introduce Stephanie Radzik, a writer from Switzerland, and get to know a bit about her work and why she chose to apply for a mentorship with Amber Lough.

 

We’d love to get to know you a little bit, so please tell us a bit about how you got into writing, how long you’ve been writing and what your preferred genre is to write?

 

For years, a Tupperware box, filled with journals sat in my parents’ basement in Edmonton. The urge to express my experiences through writing began in primary school, and over time, the box grew heavy. Like any good Mormon girl, I recorded my life faithfully.  Each completed book was stored with care and I imagined reading them to my children one day. I hoped they would be proud of the type of girl their mother had once been.

Fortunately, they were all destroyed in a flood.

I am no longer that girl, and in truth, I never was.  The thoughts and feeling I expressed were merely a reflection of others’ expectations.  At thirty-two years old, I broke away from those stories; they no longer held any truth for me.  The urge to write, however, was not replaced; instead, it was reborn with honesty and authenticity.  Now I write stories that are truer than my daily reports had ever been.  My writing fills a deep hunger I have to connect with my younger self.  I no longer claim to have answers. I aim to explore endless possibilities.  The ‘what if’s…’ of my imagination open the door to more honesty than my certainty ever had.  The emotional pain of losing my faith and identity was a catalyst for my writing.  My characters journey’s and their evolution has become my evolution.

Though my perspective has undergone a massive transformation,  the fears, hopes, and insecurities, I felt as a child are still vivid in my memory.  The works of Lois Lowry, Kit Pearson and Madeleine L’Engle, among many others, were life vests in a sea of loneliness.

In turn, I hope to reach out that hand of comfort to young people who are figuring out what it means to grow up human.  I still don’t feel grown-up myself and honestly, don’t plan to finish that project.

I write pictures, books, middle grade, and also YA.  I love the expansive nature that YA gives to my imagination.  The characters come alive with the higher word count, and their emotional journey reflects the complex and varied experience of being a teenager.

 

It takes a strong person to take a tragedy and to create something new and wonderful out of it. Where do you like to write? What does a typical writing session look like for you?

A tasty and quiet breakfast is a must before I sit down at my antique card table to write.  I try to have Scrivener up and running by 8.30.  I fit the wheels of my office chair between the tables thick, curved legs and the bed behind me.  I pull back the heavy curtains to reveal the beautiful Swiss mountains. A few candles make the spot cozy. And if I’m lucky, I’ll still have some mint chocolates left. I only have a few hours before the kids fill the house with noise again, and so I write without pause. The time flies by, and I’m usually only pulled away by my kids’ complaints. Other days I find myself lost underneath the laundry or lured to the garden. It’s a challenge to make it work from home, but I can’t seem to escape the pleasure of writing in my pajama’s.

 

I think most writers can relate to the pros and cons of writing at home. Can you tell us about the story you submitted to the mentorship program and the reason why you thought a mentor would be able to help you? 

My YA novel is the story of David and Ella, 16 year-old, twin brother and sister who are now being raised by an awkward and distant foster family after the death of their mother eight years ago. They discover that their guardians are in reality, part of a group of refugee aliens called the Yalvik Oed. They have survived for decades by hiding out on Earth, but now a strange illness threatens their kind. David and Ella carry the key to the aliens’ survival within their own bodies and are hunted by warring factions of allies and enemies. They work to unravel the lies and discover that the fate of many will rest in their hands. Will they be willing to pay the price to save others or decide that it comes at too high a cost?

The reason I submitted to the mentorship program was mainly the sense of feeling lost within my manuscript. The amount of thought and skill required to make a 100,000 word novel, into a fluid story is overwhelming. I need an experienced guide to help me sort through the countless details.

 

And a mentor is the perfect solution to that. Speaking of which, what attracted you to working with Amber? What was it about her that made you think ‘that’s the mentor for me’?

I worked my way up towards writing YA as I grew in confidence.  Though I still write picture books and middle grade, my novel freed me to write with more vulnerability and joy than I had ever experienced. I wrote my YA manuscript with surprising speed and intensity; that is until I had to fix it. The potential that Amber brings to my process will be invaluable.  Her successful completion of multiple novels means she has a lot of wisdom to share about the process. Also, Amber has mixed the historical with fantasy in a way that allows it to maintain relevance to a modern audience. She connects with her readers, despite the unexpected setting and plot of her books. My work also includes the unexpected. I hope to learn from Amber so that my work can also be meaningful to teenagers and young adults today.  I’m so excited to learn from her experience and talent.

 

And finally, what do you expect to achieve by the end of this mentorship?

I finished my manuscript over a year ago. And have been tackling the editing process with the uncertainty of an amateur. I often find my efforts railroaded by every small error and imperfection. I’m looking forward to Amber’s guidance as I try to connect my characters inner development to the smooth telling of the greater plot.  I find myself trapped inside my own head at times and need fresh and experienced eyes to see the whole. By the end of the six-month program, I plan to have my manuscript prepared for submission. The end goal is to hold my book in my hands. No matter how long it takes, I will keep improving my work until it’s too good to be rejected.

 

Sounds like you are on the right path. Thank you for joining us, Stephanie! We wish you lots of luck on your new adventure and we’ll check in with you again next Spring.

 

Interviewed by Patti Buff 

A native Minnesotan, she moved to Germany in 2001 where she currently lives in disgustingly beautiful Bavaria with her husband and two teenagers.

Patti is a former Regional Advisor for SCBWI Germany & Austria and currently volunteers for SCBWI Europolitan as the Mentor Program Coordinator.

She is represented by Hannah Sheppard of DHH Literary and is currently writing an adult crime series.